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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-making-it-easier-to-trade/2010-to-2015-government-policy-making-it-easier-to-trade
This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/making-it-easier-to-trade Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.
Some of the laws designed to protect consumers are now so out of date that they’re hampering economic growth.
The government wants to simplify or repeal these laws without losing any that give consumers the protection they need.
The Estate Agents Act was written before the internet existed. Parts of the Act made it difficult to run some online property sites - the kind that puts buyers and sellers in touch with each other, but don’t offer personal advice. We have changed the law to make trading easier for this kind of online business.
The amendment to the Act came into force on 1 October 2013.
Some of the laws covering street traders date from the 19th century. This makes some of them unfit for the 21st century and they need to be updated. Additionally, new European regulations say the UK’s street trading laws are too complex. We need to make some changes to the law for street traders as a result.
We’ll be making these changes in summer 2014.
A 2010 survey by the Office of Fair Trading found that, although many buyers use the internet as a way of looking for property, there wasn’t much choice for consumers who wanted to buy or sell a home without using an estate agent. The government felt that there was space in the market for new players to provide online property marketplaces for private sellers, as long as we made some changes to the law.
Laws on street trading and pedlary are part of retail law. This means they come under the EU’s European Services Directive. As a result, we have to change any street trading or pedlary laws to meet the directive.
Who we’re working with
The consultation ‘Encouraging New Business Models: Proposal to Amend the Estate Agents Act 1979’ closed in August 2012. We published our response on 13 September 2012.
We had over 400 responses from 271 different organisations and individuals. These included traditional estate agents, owners of online property sites, the National Federation of Property Professionals and Trading Standards officers.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland jointly consulted on street trading laws from 23 November 2012 to 5 April 2013 and are now analysing the responses.
- a new definition of what a pedlar is
- allowing people under 17 to trade as pedlars
- letting councils grant street trading licences for longer than 12 months
- taking away some local authority powers for refusing or revoking a street trading licence
The consultation also contains a proposal to repeal the UK-wide Pedlars Acts to comply with the European Services Directive.
Appendix 1: buying and selling property online
This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.
We proposed amending the Estate Agents Act (EAA) because the rules governing estate agency work were defined before the internet existed resulting in the Act possibly stopping some online ‘property introduction sites’ developing as a market sector.
How did the law hold back property introduction sites?
Traditional estate agents usually offer clients a range of services. These can include preparing information about a property and giving advice.
Property introduction sites are different from high street agents as they don’t usually offer these kind of services. Instead, they act more like dating agencies - a way for 2 people (a buyer and seller) to get in touch with each other.
The EAA treated estate agents and property introduction sites the same. We considered this unfair to some introduction sites offering a very limited service. It did not involve giving advice or involvement in the property transaction, because complying with the law may have involved them in unnecessary expense.
Removing online property introduction sites from the Act
Taking the consultation responses into account, we amended the EAA to remove certain property introduction sites from the scope of the Act. We believe this will make it easier for them to do business.
Any online site that offers typical estate agency services, such as one-to-one advice and taking photographs of the property, will still be covered by the Act.
We believe that these changes will create opportunities for growth and competition, as well as more choice for the consumer in the market.
Why we have repealed the Property Misdescriptions Act (PMA)
The PMA said estate agents must check the accuracy of the property details they give to potential buyers.
Other laws have now largely overtaken the PMA. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPR) and the Business Protection from Misleading Advertising Regulations (BPR) offer a wider range of protection. They’re also more flexible.
Changes we have made
The amendment to the EAA and repeal of the PMA came into force on 1 October 2013.
The Office of Fair Trading had already published guidance on using CPRs and BPRs in the home buying and selling sector and have published a guidance note on the amendment to the EAA.